At last Thursday’s Tweed Shire Council meeting, I was presented with a petition containing some 33,000 entries directed, not to the council, but to me personally, requesting that I to move to close off access and revegetate the Black Rocks Sportsfield.
The petition was an on-line production based in the USA where 98.5 per cent of respondents lived outside Australia (mainly from Europe and North America) and of the remaining 1.5 per cent of signatories, only 20 per cent were from the Tweed Shire with only one per cent of those living in the Pottsville area.
This equates to around nine respondents actually from Pottsville which is the community that will be most affected by the loss of their public open space.
While the numbers involved sound impressive, the petition, in no way, reflects the local view about a future for the Black Rocks Sportsfield.
The principal protagonist who spearheads the campaign lives in the street adjacent to the fields and, since his arrival in around 2010, I believe he has pursued the removal of people from their recreational space as his sole objective.
Prior to his arrival in the Tweed, the good people of the lower Tweed Coast lived in complete harmony with the koalas that moved into the re-growth area around the fields which formerly comprised open grazing country.
While this man is quick to use koala protection as his reason to achieve his objective, the facts don’t support that proposition.
A Tweed Coast koala habitat study completed in late 2015 made comparisons of koala activity over a five-year period from an earlier study in 2010. The Black Rocks precinct was one of the few where it was identified that koala numbers were relatively stable (notwithstanding the bushfire of Xmas 2014), unlike some areas to the north where populations were in decline.
This was in a period when this man bombarded councillors and council staff with dire claims of the imminent extinction for the koalas of the Black Rocks precinct.
When I proposed the replacement of the locked gate with a koala grid, it was only after consultation with a known koala expert. I have continually sought a balance that acknowledges the need for koala protection and the needs of the community to have reasonable access to their public open space.
In my time as a councillor there have been many koala protection achievements with which I have been associated, including the recent improvements on Clothiers Creek Road, measures adopted in the Kings Forest concept plan and the Koala Connections program which I launched as the mayor some years ago.
My support for council’s decision on a Men’s Shed at the fields was based on the additional protections that this type of passive surveillance at the site would mean for the protection of wildlife from any anti-social activity.
This issue now seems to have reached fever pitch with the single protagonist and his few disciples from outside Pottsville.
Therefore, I have decided to bring a proposal to the next council meeting that recommends a referendum of residents of the lower Tweed Coast (postcode 2489) to establish, definitively, their attitudes to the issue and their preferences regarding a future for their beautiful recreation space and the much cherished koala population that interfaces with the fields.
It won’t be the people of the Ukraine, Manchester or Arizona that will decide but the local people who I trust to make the right decision for their future.
Cr Barry Longland, Uki